Proceed cautiously on Mau crisis
Written by Ibrahim Mwathane
July 28, 2008
Recently, a gathering of
stakeholders sat in KICC and drew resolutions on Mau Forest.
As debate raged and the resolutions were sealed, the poor of Mau
were busy going about their business, perhaps oblivious of the
gravity of the KICC meeting. It was decided that they must move
out by October this year.
Soon after, Members of Parliament from the Kalenjin Diaspora
called a press conference to announce that they would not honour
the resolutions, complicating matters.
Since all are allied to ODM, I suspect this stance worries Prime
Minister Raila, who oversaw the discussions. This did not surprise
me though. Indeed, issues at Mau can get worse and need very
Recently, I argued that the three pillars of Vision 2030 will not
be successfully realised without stability in land ownership
through suitable rules and institutional reforms as proposed in
the draft national land policy. In illustrating the political
pillar, I used the Mau issue.
A fortnight later, Mau is in the air. And, if not well handled,
its political ramifications will last to affect the 2012
presidential elections. Sadly, it’s poor Kenyans who suffer in all
this and it is important to bring out the issues.
During the KICC forum Lands Permanent Secretary Dorothy Angote,
analysed the issues well, indicating that if Kenya had a national
land policy, the Mau disappointment would never have been.
Analysis of forestland reserves in 1962 show that just before our
independence, three per cent of Kenya’s 582, 646 square kilometres
of territorial land was under a closed canopy of gazetted forests.
This now stands below 1.7 per cent, as opposed to the
internationally recommended 10 per cent, having been progressively
allocated for human settlements.
Records in the forest department and the Department of Settlement
also show that many settlement schemes in Kiambu, Nyeri and
Nyandarua Districts of Central Province stand on former forest
In the Rift Valley, schemes in Likia, Nandi, Kapsabet, Londiani,
Marmanet and Tinderet among many others have replaced forest land.
Ironically, even the United Nations offices at Gigiri in Nairobi
stand on former forest reserve.
Forest excisions were routine until we touched Mau! Now we have a
major environmental crisis and should learn our lessons. But
today’s politics complicates the search for solutions. The
Kalenjin Diaspora politicians may want to exploit the issue to
secede from ODM, making it possible to field one of their own for
president in 2012. We must therefore seek pre-emptive solutions.
Firstly, like the Lands Permanent Secretary said, the issue
underscores the urgent need for a national land policy. Then we
must realise that the Mau settlers are largely innocent. They are
mere pawns in a wider web of policy mistakes and regional
Do you know who is responsible? Simple rural Kenyans peacefully
settled by the provincial administration and the Ministry of Lands
and subsequently given titles; never mind that one Minister for
Lands would in later years call such titles “mere pieces of paper”!
To successfully resolve the matter, we must bear in mind their
innocence, identify, plan and demarcate alternative land on which
to settle them.
I am for instance thinking of the Agricultural Development
Corporation farms identified to have been irregularly allocated in
the Ndung’u report! Then there are some of the large scale land
owners willing to sell to government.
This may take a little longer but is much better than proceeding
with solutions that inflame and play into regional politics. Only
such a win-win solution would help.